Shankay Displacement

(Inspired from real events)
As the ten hour journey came to an end, She didn’t realize this was the last time She’d be visiting her village.

It was a sad day. Her father came to pick her up from school after dropping Her there just an hour ago. That never happened. As they got in his old government owned Pajero She asked him if Grandfather was OK. Baba didn’t answer. She was right. He was no more. As saddened as She was there was also a little excitement there. Bad girl! Always thinking and doing things good girls didn’t do. There was no doubt She was going to hell but this meant going to her village.

It was a rare thing but the few times She had been there She had  loved it. Despite an urban upbringing there was a strong bond She felt with everyone there. The kids seemed to Her like Herself – wild, mischievous, loud, even a little evil.

Growing up Grandmother had told Her many stories about that wild, rough land. Of how she kept little chicks under a wicker basket to keep them safe from large scavenger birds. Of going down a big mountain to green fields along a gushing stream with her prized cow. That was where Grandmother spent most of her day talking with other village women, grazing the cow, cleaning up the little paths she had made from the stream to her field. She was lucky to witness the scene before Grandmother passed away. Her Cousinly, same age as herself, expertly carried a jug of buttermilk in her hand and a basket of cornbread over her head as She towed behind. How envious She was of Cousin. She half-hoped the buttermilk would spill or the basket slip from her head. Which never happened. Many years later, when they were both expecting babies at the same time Cousin died in her first trimester. The baby had died inside her without her realizing it. Could it be that Her wish had come true after so many years later? The perfect Cousin had made the mistake She had been waiting for?

Sitting there in that field, nothing had tasted better. Grandmother sat erect much like the Native Americans She had seen in movies with a few of her many tiny braids hanging out from her chador. Being the village chief’s wife all the other women treated her like royalty.

Today as they walked from the market, which was where the road ended, down the narrow path through mountains and villages with curious children and huge angry dogs She expected the same. Women grabbing her and giving her huge busty hugs and sloppy kisses while the men ignored with all the manliness they could muster. But no, this was definitely different.

Grandmother was never one to show emotions. Today she sat in a corner surrounded by other women as usual but something was unusual. She had some emotion that was hard to describe. Pain? Anger? Pride? Sorrow? Fear? She never expected to see Grandmother crying. Oh no. A woman didn’t cry over their husband’s death. It meant she loved him. This made for a lot of gossip. Was he loving and caring? That wasn’t very manly. But could Grandmother be crying without shedding any tears?

This was Her first funeral. Oddly She didn’t feel anything. Until then. As She sat with her back against the wall hiding from all those gathered in the biggest opening in the village, a queue of men started passing before Her. Tall men, stocky men, young men, old men. All with hard, weather-worn faces. Faces that had seen hardships beyond their years. Roughened by every day struggle to live in a ruthless land where there was no room for a gentle soul. But beyond those fierce tribal facades were many concealed moments of kindness. The world would never know about those moments. She saw them file past Her towards the middle of the opening where Grandfather lay on a high bed all wrapped in white. She couldn’t see his face from where She was. Hadn’t seen his face since they brought him to the village from Dera. Those proud men paid their respects one by one to the tribal chief and moved along to take their place on the stones with the other men. Fascinating!
That’s when Her uncle announced they were taking Grandfather’s body for burial and the women could have one last look. Curiosity made Her inch closer. That’s when She saw him. She didn’t know what She expected to see but this was strange. First time She was seeing Grandfather without his big, beige turban in public. He looked so vulnerable. Walking away as fast as She could warm liquid running down her face the voices of women crying and men chanting the Kalmah would forever change the way She looked at Her life. Pain would subside because the wounds would heal. Those were wounds to the body, not to the soul. That was a body being carried away. Grandfather was elsewhere smiling his amused smile with his piercingly intelligent eyes waiting for the right moment to tickle with his big hard fingers that hurt more than made Her laugh.

No one ate that day. Big cauldrons of food were made for the people who had come to pay respects. Different beans all cooked together. Later she saw the food carried away by the strong current of the stream. No one in Father’s village ever ate funeral food. Found it repulsive. She and Sister didn’t touch it either though they didn’t know the oddity. Genetics!

Later that day, Cousin and other children from the village went to gather “shankay”. She was charmed! What was “shankay”? Cousin just grinned and told Her to come along and find out for Herself. This was a different path from the usual one they took to go to the fields, stream or even to the other villages that they dared each other to go to. It was different. Rocky and barren as most of her village but with a bluish hue and some vegetation. This was where shepherds brought their cattle to graze. This was Her favorite part – discovering what She called a mountain on a mountain. Her village was on top of a mountain but She knew that there were other mountains surrounding the area. Here She was at the foot of one of the largest She had seen yet. And it was blue. A deep, serious blue – not one of those cheerful hues. On closer inspection, small crush-like stones were found to be the reason for the color. This was shankay – small blue stones people used to decorate graves with. Cousin was happy to see Her surprise. Cousin was like that. She liked showing Her new things and was delighted when the right amount of curiosity and excitement were shown. Does the mountain feel happy it gives a part of itself to decorate a grave? Or does it find it morbid? How would I feel if someone thought my hair pretty and took away locks to lay on a dear one’s grave? Is that why bits of me were taken away so they could make their ugly souls look pretty even if for just a while? She collected the stones because She couldn’t let Cousin take all the credit for making the grave pretty. Cousin had already started making a flag from rags to put on it.

Death should be mourned more. Isn’t that how it’s shown on TV and in books? But as the kids returned to the village and headed towards the graveyard, She saw women sitting by the graves chatting amongst themselves. There was nothing tragic. No tears. Just life going on. Grandfather’s newly dug grave was easy to find. She never knew he was this tall. They must have made the grave bigger by mistake. Here in the late afternoon breeze with the women’s silent murmuring and chuckles, running around of the children with slingshots around their necks, the chatter of tweens like herself as they spread shankay on the grave, Death was a friend and not the scary monster it was made out to be. Life and Death. Death and Life. Just a Dream separating the two. Both cruel. Both kind. Both divine.

Granduncle’s room with the tin roof shaded by pomegranate trees. Mud stoves and log fire. Enchanting rooms with poles smack-dab in the middle going up a hole in the roof for keeping night watches. Prized walnut trees. Ancestors. Roots. Simplicity. All dead. Displaced. And in Her mind She has covered it all with shankay.

Negativity – Let It Go

People will bring you down no matter what you do. There will always be something you didn’t do right. Something someone thinks you or they could have done differently. A dear friend was telling me just today about how social entrepreneurs will forever face the dilemma of going with fulfilling their dream and getting rewarded with immense personal gratification, and following the set rule of success and measuring it in terms of money.

“What is your revenue?”

“How many people do you employ?”

“How come you don’t even have an office?”

So many questions. So many DUMB questions to put to someone working to bring a sustainable social change. Foolish questions to ask a social entrepreneur spending every minute of his/her life envisioning and working for a social revolution that will make lives better and not just bring in VCs. Makes me question the person’s knowledge of what a socent actually is.

Then there are those saying they would do it differently. My question to them; Why don’t you? I don’t own copyrights to running digital livelihood workshops and connecting people to work. Fast rewind to my first blog posts. I have said it time and time again I am not one to get scared of challenges. And no one can stop me from doing something I truly believe in. Everyone I went to with the idea for WDL said NO. They said it was impossible. So here I am doing it myself. My journey has been no secret. It’s all here on this very blog. Been saying if I couldn’t make it happen it was OK. Maybe someone will pick it up from where I leave (which would only be when I die or someone actually makes my dream a reality) and take it to the next step.

My “marketing tactics” have been questioned. Something about how I am cashing in on being from South Waziristan and a woman and a Pakistani and working for digital livelihood and using that as leverage to get attention. Can I help being in a unique position? All of that is true but just how many times have I pitched myself as a poor lil helpless D.I.D. running away from my oppressed past? Or plastered black, yellow, brown, orange faces with myself patronizing them? People find out from word of mouth about WDL and they are curious and then they want to tell the world about it. Am I supposed to say “No” to them just because I make some people uncomfortable and insecure? So if Pakistan has a dormant workforce and faces challenges in working I am not supposed to highlight it? Puhleaze! On the contrary to what some excuse me of I am telling the world we have a LARGE UNTAPPED EDUCATED SKILLED workforce and all it lacks is opportunity. Millions of little girls are denied and education but MILLIONS do go to school and college and universities. Pushtun women have perhaps a harder time especially those from Waziristan and rest of FATA but we are NOT the oppressed, illiterate lot the World wants us to be or knows us to be. I am one example of the women who came forward and said HELL WITH ALL YOUR MEDIA-FED PERCEPTION. I am as Pakistani, as Waziristani, as it gets. I am a woman. I have an education. I am doing tech. Our fathers and brothers and husbands are NOT the cruel savages they are made out to be. There are many more like me … many MUCH MORE intelligent, educated, empowered then me. Stop stereotyping me.

So how the hell am I using any marketing tactic here? I don’t remember even referring to my tribal background ever in any interview. I am taking a social media detox for this reason. I am so sick and tired of all the negativity. Always under a microscope being judged for every word that I tweet or put up on FB. This is precisely why I don’t talk about work on social media and blog as little as possible. This constant scrutiny. It’s like I can never do anything right. Now I know the moment you read this post you will be like oh she is aiming for sympathy/empathy. UGH! I wish I could say I don’t give a crap. But I do. I mean not enough to stop being me. But enough to want to go get a sugar high and then hate myself for it.

In other happier news, had a great 3 days in Islamabad with the familia and friends. Miss this city. Just being able to walk from Shaheen Chemist to Kohsar Market to sit in GJC for a smoothie and then walking down to Kuch Khaas which is my “safe spot”. Off to Lahore tomorrow via train. Sighhh … I am not liking the place so far but having a house in the most green area in the city helps a lot.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

P.S. Aerosmith’s Angel is still goosebump inducing.
P.P.S. Goosebumps remind me … I had the BIGGEST HUGEST BUMPIEST goosebumps listening to Samina Baig and her brother Mirza Baig. Pakistan’s first mountaineer sibling duo from Hunza climbed 7 peaks in 7 continents including the highest, Mount Everest. Oppressed women? OH SHUT UP ALREADY!
Samina Baig and Mirza Baig

Long Overdue

For those confused about how to contribute to my b school campaign, here is link to my FB page: https://www.facebook.com/MariaGoesToSchool THANKS!

 

Dubai was awesome.

No, let me rephrase that.

ASHOKA was AWESOME.

Gosh … who would have thought I would make it to Ashoka! For those of you who don’t understand what the big deal is it’s the OSCARS of social entrepreneurs. That’s what I told my sister since my family still don’t understand what I do but in retrospect it was very apt. The ladies were ah-mazing.

Ashoka Everyone                                             Ashoka award

 

You will need YouTube to view this video. Or if you are in a country blocking the service you can use a proxy. I use 12345proxy.com *evilgrin*

Have been invited by a v prestigious b school to apply for their leadership course. You have no idea how big of a thrill it is. Just having your application considered by them is a huge deal never mind getting an actual invitation from them. Now if only I had the money. Do you think if I start a Crowdfunding campaign you’d all pitch in? Tuition fee alone is like 12,000 euros but got good chances of getting a sponsor. Travel is the actual problem. Need about $10,000. That’s like 10,000 people contributing a dollar each. Or 5000 people pitching in $2 each. or 2500 people giving $4/ea. Or 1250 people giving me $8/ea. That should be doable, no? I am serious guys. if you want to help, pledge $8 below and send me an email at maria@womensdigitalleague.com. Let’s see if I can get 1250 people to give me $8/ea. :D

Had to send my college/university degree to my business partner cum mentor. Since I didn’t have the degree on me I ended up sending the DMC (Detailed Marks Certificate). And GAWD it was so embarrassing. :D :D I was a topper in my own college but those marks are anything but topper material. :D

Few months back met this American guy who has been living in Pakistan for last 10 years or more. Runs a disaster relief organization by the name of Comprehensive Disaster Response Service (CDRS). Goes around the world helping people during times of … you guessed it … disaster. Has a strong passion for rock music. Is usually spotted wearing one of his many Pink Floyd shirts.

Todd Shea in Pink Floyd

Imagine an American walking around Swat or Buner or Bannu. Yes, guys. BANNU. The dude is absolutely crazy. At the mo, he is in Bannu at ground zero with the IDPs from North Waziristan. CRAZY!

Todd Shea - Crazy Americano in Bannu

Reason why I am sharing all this is because my peeps, things are really bad for these IDPs. He is collecting funds especially for the local hospital. Am sharing a photograph he put on FB along with an appeal for donations. If you click on the image it will take you to his post where you can connect with him to learn more and donate. Honestly, if this doesn’t move you, I don’t know what will. Please contribute what you can?

Todd Shea - Hospital - postnatal care - bannu

 

OK my lovelies, me outta here. But here is a recap of all of above:

  1. I am an Ashoka Changemaker which means I am cool and you are not. Deal with it.
  2. Scratch last bit of above. You are all awesome. Please give me $8 and spread word (I am serious about this) so I can attend the b school.
  3. People are dying. Please donate what you can.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Polio / Popularity / Poverty

Have you heard of the WHO sanction on Pakistanis traveling abroad? Because we have been unable to curb the polio virus so whenever we travel abroad we need to show a certificate saying we had been vaccinated. So I went to get my polio certificate. Didn’t take copy of my passport. Had to go out and find a scanner. Got the copy. Went back to the vaccination “cell” (what else do you call a 4X4 room?). Had to wait outside with some 50 other people because they were “fixing something” in the office. Half an hour later, I am ushered in. I asked if I could have a selfie taken while getting the drops. Request denied. They said it would end up on social media and media has been a huge problem these days. So. NO! Alrighty! Get the drops. They taste horrible. Then I am told to come back 3 hours later. Huh? WHY? Because the department head who has to sign the certificate has gone to his children’s school and won’t be back for a few hours. *facepalm*

Polio Vaccination at Airports

Polio Vaccination at Airports

Anyway … so am traveling to Dubai soon for an Ashoka Changemakers Conference. This is for the Women Powering Work competition where I won the Early Entry prize. There is no love lost between Dubai and me. Hate the city. Strangely enough, I quite liked the neighboring Abu Dhabi. But Dubai is racist. You can feel the vibe. The sheikhs looking down on you. Even the shopkeepers and hotel receptionists. Abu Dhabi in comparison was pretty friendly. But a free trip to meet Ashoka reps is always something to be mega excited about. No more whining.

Had a wonderful Orientation session at Pakistan’s oldest women college, Lahore College for Women University. Am conducting digital livelihood workshops next week for the British Council “Active Citizen Program” students and the college management felt it was important to have an intro. Girls seemed to enjoy it and had lots of questions to ask which is always a good sign. I think what they liked and related to most was the case studies I gave them of various women who were working online doing different kinds of work. For that I am ever grateful to Salma Jafri, Haleema Mohammad and Ambreen Tariq. These ladies answered the long list of questions I sent them and even went on to share their monthly earnings with us ;) Now I just feel poor. :D

Best part was the girls lining up to have their photographs with me. I felt so important. haha Will post pictures when I have them.

So what’s new with you guys / girls? Everyone is always so quiet. Say something. Add a comment. I love to hear from everyone.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Loaded Diaper and Gru

A couple of things on my mind that I need to trash away onto these virtual pages. But before I do that, here is some happiness for you ;)

1. It sucks that I am unable to provide work to all the women, and in some cases men, who approach me almost daily via Facebook, Twitter, email, text messages etc. I try. God knows I try. Five years and I have been working to do just that. But unfortunately I don’t have enough work. Not right now. That’s the goal. It disturbs and agitates me greatly that I can’t connect everyone to work. Please don’t judge if I don’t respond to all of you. What am I supposed to say? Plus, I am grateful to the support and encouragement all of you have shown me – I truly am. However, if you want to point someone in my direction for advice, kindly don’t share my personal phone number. The best way to reach me is via email which is maria@womensdigitalleague.com.

2. Competition is awesome. It keeps you on your toes, gets you thinking about ways to improve what you do, and I could go on.

Negative Competition is a Loaded Diaper

Negative Competition is a Loaded Diaper

However, there is a fine line between being competitive and being vicious. A wise person once said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I am no saint and can’t say I don’t mind who gets credit for my hard work but at the end of the day of it helps make someones life better and I become a mere tool in the way, I’ll make my peace with it. But remember, stealing, lying, cheating, insincerity … they are like loaded diapers (been watching Diary of a Wimpy Kids almost on loop). You may cover up the stench for only a while but unless you stop being lazy and get up and change it and dispose off it properly, it will just keep on getting worse. In the long run, people will find out what you are doing.

3. A little about Twitter, politics, and teenagers. Internet is awesome. It lets you have a voice. It makes you realize you are not alone in your craziness. However, I’ve noticed how without some guidance and even coaching, young people can get quite lost. With great power comes great responsibility. Activating the “youth” and making them a part of social change is a stellar idea. But I am seeing that you also need to be careful how you empower them. Leaving them on their own just creates anarchy … sorta like the Lord of the Flies. Faceless people without much knowledge and hiding behind pseudonyms but with power can be really dangerous. Political parties tapping into these energetic youngsters wanting a change in their country also need to do it carefully through constant nurturing and educating.

4. 3 years. I miss you my Artemis/10k friends. :)

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

Chugging Along Just Fine

I love the sound of that word. Chugging. Can see a fiery red steam engine billowing smoke along dangerously curving tracks over huge barren mountains with a clear blue sky above with not a hint of white or grey or any ripple. Happy thoughts. :)

So here is what we are doing with WDL. Me and my long-time business advisor and mentor have come together formally and are registering WDL as an NGO (Non-governmental organization). Idea is to make WDL a training platform for women … something I had never had much focus on until quite recently. I always left the training bit to my freelancers and also to partner organizations. Have come to realize that unless someone like myself who has experience of the actual freelancing world comes forward and shows these ladies how to work and find work online WDL will have trouble finding the right workforce. So here we are now. The registration is still in process but we are certain that’s what we are going to do.

Work Love Before you start with your sarcasm, yes I know I have always said I hated being an NGO auntie. You know the kind with the Birkin bag, Chanel shades and beautiful mani/pedi asking for donation to buy pencils and erasers for poor slum kids? *shudder. Also, spending money on NGOs in a country where they have so much negative connotation around them seems like such a waste. Why not invest in a socent instead? A hard core for-profit business working for the community aiming to make everyone rich and not just the top-tier. I may have a way too simplistic approach to things and correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t it make more sense to actually invest in a business that would work to eradicate a social problem and at the same time be sustainable? Because with NGOs they are mostly only dependent on aid and the moment the aid agency decides to pull the plug on a certain project or just wrap up its activity in a certain area or country, the NGO’s work goes kaput. They may be in the middle of something wonderful but without necessary funding they have to wrap up things and go home until another donor agency comes along. A socent on the other hand will come with a proper business plan. Invest rather than give charity!! It’s so frustrating how millions or perhaps billions of dollars are being dispersed this way without really showing significant results.

NGO

But what I am saying is over the past 5 years I have done a lot considering how and where I started from. They needed idea validation. I gave idea validation. I won’t even name the organizations, publications that have been witness to the validity of WDL’s concept. But no money has ever come in. Perhaps its a girl thing. Now if I had been running a pastry business from home and wanted to make a cafe people would invest in it. But being a woman and wanting money to start a tech biz makes people hesitant. Maybe people are just callous and couldn’t care less about a business that keeps 20% in commission and gives away the rest to the service providers because they’d rather keep 60% because hey, they could hire someone full time for same work for a quarter of that. Why hurt the social fabric? Let the poor get only enough to live by … don’t let them experience any better because then they will start asking for more which will make it hard for us to get even richer.

Yes, I am somewhat angry. However, the plan has always been to reach as many people as possible and if that means becoming an NGO, so be it. I have nothing to worry about. 5 years may have proven to people how big an idiot I am but they know I am an honest, sincere idiot. Money is the last thing that could corrupt me.

Am just so fortunate to have the best group of people to work with and to have by my side as supporters. Just having a mentor who believes enough in me to want to partner feels AWESOME. Will be starting training in Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) in May, got training in Hunza (yayyy), tons of other very exciting things happening that I will try and keep my mouth shut about until they happen. Found out the hard way if you share your plans with people they will just go ahead and do them behind your back. :/ I hate growing up!!

In FUN news, I went sightseeing with a friend. Found the most amazing place 5 minutes drive from home – the Shalimar Gardens. Sighhhhh …. just thinking about it makes my heart beat all funny. I will let you Google the history and all but what struck me was that I never expected it to be what it was. Does that make sense? I was on a rickshaw with this friend and we get to this dirty, dusty road. We stopped by a terribly vandalized wall. On closer look I saw a door build inside it with garbage heaps on either side. And then after buying a Rs 5 ticket a rather amused guard let us in the door.

 

Shalima Gardens

And Oh. My. God. I had goosebumps. That’s all I can recall of the first 5 minutes inside. Couldn’t even tell why. All I know was I felt like I hadn’t found a Secret Garden but like I had found a person. Someone who was both warm and fuzzy but also there was a coolness … something only people living in hot climates would understand. Like the gentle hand of a loved one cupping your hot face on a humid afternoon and surprising you with how cool it feels. I know people like that. People whose hands are always cool … not a startling cold … but a gentle soothing coolness. If you know what I mean then that’s how it felt. Everything was connected. Like … like a body is. Not like a man-made building or garden. Like if you take out even one tree, one blade of grass, you will scar it. I know the place is not what the emperor who built it meant for it to be … every ruler who came made changes to it, its a victim to plunderers but still … there is something that I can’t put my finger on. Perhaps I am not meant to. It’s a feeling. An experience. My life is so enriched for having been to the place.

Perhaps I should start writing YA novels. Throw in a few vampires. Hmm …

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

On Turning 35 and more

Uhhhhh ….

Ummmm ….

Errrr ….

*Minion-ese*

I am brand ambassador for #NestleNesvitaWomenOfStrength campaign. Khirad *sharam* (Don’t worry if you don’t understand this – it’s from a superhit Pakistani TV drama).

Am waiting for the video they made. Or maybe I am not. I tried following a script to answer their Qs. But they wouldn’t have it. And we all know when I speak from the heart I get into trouble. *biting nails*.

Here is an example:

For those of you who understand urdu … I made a Pathan joke. Ugh. Those who don’t, I MADE A PATHAN JOKE. *facepalm. Being a blueblooded pushtun is perhaps the reason I don’t have people calling me racist.

Alauddin - Nestle Nesvita Women of Strength Campaign 1

A photo from the campaign.

Anyway, I am glad the video (yet to go live) was shot at Alauddin. It’s my second fav place now … almost as magical as Hunza. Did I tell you I was going to Hunza for a whole month in July In sha Allah? Yes, Sir, I am. Woo hoo.

Was invited to a seminar arranged by British Council Pakistan. The US Embassy will always be my first love (think Artemis) but it was nice to hear a different English. *grin. As skeptical as I was the experience really was quite wonderful. Best part was meeting Dr Quratulain Bakhteari. The lady has a PhD in pit toilets. I meet people like these … who just quietly go through life touching people, working for them, and I somehow want to just cry. So easy to make people’s lives better. All it takes is a little bit of our time and yet we don’t do it. Why? Emo much? Oh well.

British Council Seminar

One epic moment at the seminar. I have been trying to avoid this anecdote but I can’t help it. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. So, during a panel discussion on how we can use technology to engage civil society, moderator asked us how we can capitalize on a hyper connected youth. This person representing the IT Ministry gave the BEST answer. Remember, I said IT Ministry. He said the best way to engage this tech-savvy, socially connected youth was to build playgrounds and get them involved in sports!!! OMG. OMG. ROFL. *splutter gasp* #facepalm. Sigh.

What else? Ummm …. nothing much really. Oohhh yeah. I turned 35. Wow. I always used to think 35 was old. But I don’t feel old. Is that normal? Pretty much feel the same as I did at 15. Except I have some grey hair now. And I weigh a ton. Or two tons. But I feel just as stupid as I did before. Somehow the same stupid thoughts make people think I am clever now. Find me inspiring. Strange how perspectives can change. However, not sure how I feel about it. As long as I wasn’t relatively famous I knew who were my friends most of the time. Now, I am not. I mean I think I do but then I find out the hard way they are just people who are intrigued. They have an idea of who I am and then they are disappointed when they find out I am not who they thought I was. That I really meant what I told them about me and I wasn’t just being self-deprecating. And it’s like they are taken aback and shocked that I can be human. But oh well. I am not competing with anyone on being nice.

The only person you should try be better than is the person you were yesterday.

Ok byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

 

 

Asking Life for More

Some days I am an atheist. For some moments. The madness surrounding my country leaves me gasping for breath. Every day the news of someone getting killed in a senseless war waged by a faceless enemy surrounded by countless controversies for reasons that are … well … just not reason enough. Fear that comes with the realization this may be just the catharsis. Preparation for something more personal, more closer to home. This shaking, terrified person I have met today that I never thought I was just because of a name that sounded familiar and that may be no more may stay here and become me. And every time the feeling lasts for a few seconds. Because I need to have Faith. Believe there is a Heaven … a better place where everything is fair. Where the good are rewarded .. and the bad .. the bad are chastised. If I didn’t, I won’t be able to “be”. Not physically, not in spirit. I’d snatch out my soul and tear it into pieces so I just wouldn’t be. So I need Faith. I need God. So I know that in the end everything’s going to be OK. 

So on to better things! 

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. People have their own ways of celebrating it. Some make morning show appearances and laugh at lame jokes, dance to silly songs. Some will hold glitzy events at fancy hotels. Yet others will go for bicycle rides!!! Dunno what any of that achieves but more power to everyone. Me? I will be at Ala-ud-din Academy with the women no one will prolly ever know. The unsung heroes who go about their daily routines. Women who work; support themselves and families; go home and take on the roles of mothers, daughters, wives; who face every day challenges without demanding any recognition for any of it. Yet who have true grit and determination to do more … achieve more … ask for more from life. They make me feel small and unaccomplished. But at the same time happier for having known them just a wee bit. 

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

DDSS – Different Day, Same SUPER-AWESOMENESS

I hate how Facebook keeps tempting me to say something. That little white bar pretends to be interested in what I am thinking, who I am with, what I am eating. Like an annoying 12 year old who wants to shadow everything you do.

Wow! I am random, ain’t I?

My mind is cluttered with a lot of rubbish these days. On top is WDL, as usual. Not that WDL is rubbish. NOT AT ALL. I mean I have questions and people who will gladly answer the questions but am just not sure I am ready to hear them … just yet. Going in a slightly new direction with it. Have included capacity building to the things we do. Have always been slightly averse to the term. Have you noticed how many people throw that at you … “capacity building”, “skill development” ? It all sounds like a fraud. Maybe because it usually is. I mean what’s the point of skill building if you are not going to follow up on it and actually help people realize how that new skill they have learned from attending your workshop is useful to them? If there is no economic activity generated around it it’s pretty useless IMO.

Millions of dollars are coming into Pakistan and being used for teaching people to fish. But if they live in a desert? How good is that fishing workshop to them? Why would a person who barely gets 2 meals a day send one of his/her 10 kids to your school? What value is there is learning about plateaus and names of planets when what they really need is the 3 Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) and special lessons in farming, fixing machinery, handicrafts, computers even to start earning even while they are in school? Do I sound bourgeois? I really hope I don’t because that’s not my intention.

Look, I am going to women who already have college degrees and am teaching them to harness the power of the Internet to become economically independent. I thought I would just show them how to use Elance and oDesk and then let them see what a wonderland it all is. But I very quickly realized not every one is cut out for data entry or SEO. It’s CRIMINAL I believe if I know it’s not going to work for most and KNOW what will and then not help. So here I am now giving the whole package. We are doing a crash course on these different platforms like oDesk and Elance and Live Person. Then I am going to do simple basic websites with them using free WP templates and tweaking them to look and feel a certain way so that includes basic Photoshop. After that I am doing Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest with them. Having done that I will brainstorm what their special skills are. Are they good at embroidery or knitting or baking or do they give tuition etc. Having done done that am going to show them how they can then use all the skills they learned to make a business out of what they are already good at.

So suppose a group of 5 girls say they give tuition to primary grade kids. They can make a WP website, create a page for it on FB and link that to Twitter, and now promote themselves as an academy with female only teachers where the local parents would feel comfortable sending their little girls to for exam preparation etc. They can also add tuition classes through Skype as a VAS.

Similarly another group can come together and make a small catering business.

What do you think? Am I missing something here? What are the other ways you think the Internet can help them actually gain financial independence?

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

The Highs and Lows

I have been really pathetic past couple of days. But we all need those days now and then. When you experience something that tears you between what you know is right and what you know will make you happy. It can be professional or personal life. “Succumb” – my heart tells me. “It’s not you” – my mind chastises. Not being a very strong person I always take the easy route. Turn to Him. Lay it all out into the open and tell Him to do for me what’s right because I don’t have the strength. So, when I was weak, He stepped in. I tell you dudettes, His decisions are realllllyyyyy tough and you gotta be a 100% sure you want an intervention. So I was saying … I have been down in the dumps, hating myself, hating on the world, hating on everything. And I am still not all the way OK but the worse is over. I am here writing this blog, ain’t I? So … deep breath … inhale … and EXHALE. Phewww …

Back to my former glory .. almost.

I was at Alauddin Academy. You know about that, right? It’s crazy fun, I tell you. And so gratifying. The online work workshop is going well thanks to the very hard work of Amna Zafar. Initially the plan was to just teach them basics of Elance and let them figure out other things on their own. But seeing how enthusiastic everyone is and what a wonderful bunch of students we have, we are now covering all the basis. So Elance, oDesk, Freelancer and LivePerson. Also, basics of blogging, creating WordPress websites using simple templates (tweaks really), Facebook and Twitter and how to use them for running small online businesses. Exciting, right!

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Again, I request you … if you have any data entry work or SEO article work or some other small thing you think you wouldn’t mind getting done on the cheap while helping these women please ping me.

So long.

OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee